According to Business Week, the life expectancy of a multinational corporation (typically on the Fortune 500 list) is only between 40 and 50 years on average. Many companies do not even last that long. Yet, there are a few selective organizations that have lasted for hundreds of years. But, what is the key to their longevity? The answer is strong leadership, coupled with effective product management.
Take the Marinelli Bell Foundry, a bell manufacturer in Agnone, a small town in Italy. The company is Italy’s oldest business, established since 1040 AD. The company today is run by two brothers who’s leadership and ability to manage their one product (bells) so well, has seen a 20% increase in exports of their product even with the Italian economy floundering and many businesses closing.
The Marinelli brothers correctly identified that their largest customer, the Catholic Church, while heavily present in Italy, were willing to pay for their flagship product, a $4000 dollar 221 pound bronze bell, anywhere in the world. As a result, the export market for the company is what is driving revenues today and the brothers deliver bells as far away as New Delhi and Equatorial Guinea.
During World War II, when Italy was under a fascist regime, the authorities ordered that Italy’s church bells had to be removed and turned into cannons. The Marinelli’s grandfather used to alert the priests ahead of time so that they could hide the bells. Even then, the Marinelli line prioritized their customers above all else, leading them to their present day situation where the company is reaping the rewards. Take a look at this story map with insights into some of the world’s oldest businesses. This article was written in conjunction with Brighton School of Business and Management.
The Product Management Perspective: Your products may not last 400-500 years, but you should look to the future and do everything you can to assure they live a good long life.